When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

Can We Still Say "Merry Christmas"? An Italian Take On The Inclusive Language Debate

The European Commission's efforts to push for more inclusive language are important. But we should be careful and make sure we make room for differences.

Can We Still Say "Merry Christmas"? An Italian Take On The Inclusive Language Debate

"Buone feste" or "Buon Natale"?

Michela Marzano


ROME — In Italian, it's Buone feste or Buon Natale? "Happy holidays" or "Merry Christmas"? The controversy triggered over the European Commission's Union of Equality guidelines makes very little sense.

The EU does not prohibit anyone from using the word "Christmas." Such guidelines only serve to highlight the importance of language in preventing inequalities from being perpetuated or worsened.

At university, for instance, there is always a moment when a colleague refers to a student using the horrible term “disabled” (which is even more violent in French, as the term for "disabled" is "handicapé", or handicapped) and I, systematically, react the same way: "Can we, please, avoid reducing one to their disability?"

This often triggers the same reaction among my colleagues, who look at me, puzzled, muttering "but why is Marzano always such a nitpicker?”

More inclusive language

In the case of disabilities, it is not about being picky. The Union of Equality commission rightly calls for the use of a more inclusive language, without emphasizing whether a woman is single or married by distinguishing between "miss or mrs", or without creating barriers between heterosexual and homosexual or transgender people.

It is essential to realize that equality is also built through words, and that for instance, referring to a colleague as "mrs" is a clear way of continuing to discriminate against women.

No objection, then, to these guidelines? Is there no problem either when the Commission explains that all references to gender, sexual orientation, ethnic origin, disability and religious beliefs should be removed?

Identity and belief

Actually, I do have a few minor objections. Especially when I seem to perceive a conceptual shift from equality to identity, since it is not true that we are all identical and that, most of the time, it is precisely our differences that make us unique and not interchangeable.

Why, in order to respect equality, should there be no linguistic reference to gender, sexual orientation, religious belief or disability? Not to mention a disability is to erase it. Erasing is ignoring the specific needs of a person with a disability. Ignoring their specific needs is marginalizing them.

Why would wishing a non-believer "Merry Christmas" violate equality?

A similar discourse applies to sexual orientation, age, and religious beliefs: it is one thing to offend someone because they are gay, old, or even religious. It is another not to acknowledge (and therefore suppress) them as gay, lesbian, old, or Catholic.

How long did it take before homosexual people could finally emerge from the invisibility to which they had been relegated? How many Pride demonstrations had to be organised to obtain rights for gays and lesbians? Why would calling an elderly person "old" or wishing a non-believer "Merry Christmas" violate equality? Is there perhaps a value judgment behind the terms "homosexual," "trans," "elderly," and Christmas, or are we confusing the descriptive and evaluative levels?

A man in a wheel chair in Palermo


Making room for differences

I hate inequality and have always fought against it. Yet sometimes I suspect that, in the name of formal equality, we make the mistake of erasing differences. It is only by making room for differences — and by naming them clearly — that we can then aim for inclusion and equality: equal though different; equal because different.

However, I am ready to challenge myself if someone has the patience (and the will) to show me that I am wrong, that I am outdated, that I am working with a now obsolete software.

Also because this defense of the thousand shades of reality — which also leads me not to be shocked when I hear about Christmas, Passover or Ramadan — has nothing to do with defending the "Christian roots of the European Union'' as the right-wing party Forza Italia pointed out, nor with the absurd criticism that the intention of the EU is to rewrite the idea of family or nature.

Conception of the absolute

My doubts about some of the guidelines of the Union of Equality Commissions come to light most vividly when I think of Theo, one of my students, and the conversation we had recently. He explained to me that he would rather call himself "gay" than "homosexual"; or when I think of my mother, who is elderly and needs someone to give her a seat when she takes the bus, and that if she were just "more grown-up" she might have a harder time asking a young person to leave her a seat.

I get very irritated when people call me "miss": it's obviously a way to belittle me. I am uncompromising when I hear someone referred to as "disabled," because none of us are our own disability. Language is fundamental to building inclusion and equality. Those who deny this are either mistaken or acting in bad faith.

However, let's be careful not to anesthetize language by using it with vague imprecision. This risks transforming language into the "night in which all cows are black", on which Hegel famously criticized his contemporary Schelling's conception of the Absolute. If we were all identical what could possibly make us unique?

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.


The Unsustainable Future Of Fish Farming — On Vivid Display In Turkish Waters

Currently, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming, compared to just 10% two decades ago. The short-sightedness of this shift risks eliminating fishing output from both the farms and the open seas along Turkey's 5,200 miles of coastline.

Photograph of two fishermen throwing a net into the Tigris river in Turkey.

Traditional fishermen on the Tigris river, Turkey.

Dûrzan Cîrano/Wikimeidia
İrfan Donat

ISTANBUL — Turkey's annual fish production includes 515,000 tons from cultivation and 335,000 tons came from fishing in open waters. In other words, 60% of Turkey's fish currently comes from cultivation, also known as fish farming.

It's a radical shift from just 20 years ago when some 600,000 tons, or 90% of the total output, came from fishing. Now, researchers are warning the current system dominated by fish farming is ultimately unsustainable in the country with 8,333 kilometers (5,177 miles) long.

Professor Mustafa Sarı from the Maritime Studies Faculty of Bandırma 17 Eylül University believes urgent action is needed: “Why were we getting 600,000 tons of fish from the seas in the 2000’s and only 300,000 now? Where did the other 300,000 tons of fish go?”

Professor Sarı is challenging the argument from certain sectors of the industry that cultivation is the more sustainable approach. “Now we are feeding the fish that we cultivate at the farms with the fish that we catch from nature," he explained. "The fish types that we cultivate at the farms are sea bass, sea bram, trout and salmon, which are fed with artificial feed produced at fish-feed factories. All of these fish-feeds must have a significant amount of fish flour and fish oil in them.”

That fish flour and fish oil inevitably must come from the sea. "We have to get them from natural sources. We need to catch 5.7 kilogram of fish from the seas in order to cultivate a sea bream of 1 kg," Sarı said. "Therefore, we are feeding the fish to the fish. We cannot cultivate fish at the farms if the fish in nature becomes extinct. The natural fish need to be protected. The consequences would be severe if the current policy is continued.”

Keep reading...Show less

The latest